John the Baptist had probably come forth from among the Essenes, and he preached a spiritualised Kingdom of Heaven
|November 17, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter twelve||
As regards the question of the sources, Ghillany occupies very nearly the Tübingen standpoint, except that he holds Matthew to be later than Luke, and Mark to be extracted, not from these Gospels in their present form, but from their sources. John is not authentic. The worship offered to Jesus after His death by the Christian community is, according to Ghillany, not derived from pure Judaism, but from a Judaism influenced by oriental religions. The influence of the cult of Mithra, for example, is unmistakable. In it, as in Christianity, we find the virgin-birth, the star, the wise men, the cross, and the resurrection. Were it not for the human sacrifice of the Mithra cult, the idea which is operative in the Supper, of eating and drinking the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, would be inexplicable.
The whole Eastern world was at that time impregnated with Gnostic ideas, which centred in the revelation of the Divine in the human. In this way there arose, for example, a Samaritan Gnosis, independent of the Christian. Christianity itself is a species of Gnosis. In any case the metaphysical conception of the Divine Sonship of Jesus is of secondary origin. If He was in any sense the Son of God for the disciples, they can only have thought of this sonship in a Gnostic fashion, and supposed that the “highest angel,” the Son of God, had taken up His abode in Him.
John the Baptist had probably come forth from among the Essenes, and he preached a spiritualised Kingdom of Heaven. He held himself to be Elias. Jesus’ aims were originally similar; He came forward “in the cause of sound religious teaching for the people.” He made no claim to Davidic descent; that is to be credited to dogmatic theology. Similarly Papias is wrong in ascribing to Jesus the crude eschatological expectations implied in the saying about the miraculous vine in the Messianic Kingdom.
It is certain, however, that Jesus held Himself to be Messiah and expected the early coming of the Kingdom. His teaching is Rabbinic; all His ideas have their source in contemporary Judaism, whose world of thought we can reconstruct from the Rabbinic writings; for even if these only became fixed at a later period, the thoughts on which they are based were already current in the time of Jesus. Another source of great importance is Justin’s “Dialogue with the Jew Trypho.”
The starting-point in interpreting the teaching of Jesus is the idea of repentance. In the tractate “Sanhedrin” we find: “The set time of the Messiah is already here; His coming depends now upon repentance and good works. Rabbi Eleazer says, ‘When the Jews repent they shall be redeemed.'” The Targum of Jonathan observes, on Zech. x. 3, 4, “The Messiah is already born, but remains in concealment because of the sins of the Hebrews.” We find the same thoughts put into the mouth of Trypho in Justin. In the same Targum of Jonathan, Isa. liii. is interpreted with reference to the sufferings of the Messiah. Judaism, therefore, was not unacquainted with the idea of a suffering Messiah. He was not identified, however, with the heavenly Messiah of Daniel. The Rabbis distinguished two Messiahs, one of Israel and one of Judah. First the Messiah of the Kingdom of Israel, denominated the Son of Joseph, was to come from Galilee to suffer death at the hands of the Gentiles in order to make atonement for the sins of the Hebrew nation. Only after that would the Messiah predicted by Daniel, the son of David, of the tribe of Judah, appear in glory upon the clouds of heaven. Finally, He also, after two-and-sixty weeks of years, should be taken away, since the Messianic Kingdom, even as conceived by Paul, was only a temporary supernatural condition of the world.
The Messianic expectation, being directed to supernatural events, had no political character, and one who knew Himself to be the Messiah could never dream of using earthly means for the attainment of His ends; He would expect all things to be brought about by the Divine intervention. In this respect Ghillany grasps clearly the character of the eschatology of Jesus—more clearly than any one had ever done before. The role of the Messiah, who prior to His supernatural manifestation remains in concealment upon earth, is therefore passive. He who is conscious of a Messianic vocation does not seek to found a Kingdom among men. He waits with confidence. He issues forth from His passivity with the sole purpose of making atonement, by vicarious suffering, for the sins of the people, in order that it may be possible for God to bring about the new condition of things. If, in spite of the repentance of the people and the occurrence of the signs which pointed to its being at hand, the coming of the Kingdom should be delayed, the man who is conscious of a Messianic vocation must, by His death, compel the intervention of God. His vocation in this world is to die.
Brought within the lines of these reflections the Life of Jesus shapes itself as follows.
 The reference should be Micah iv. 8.—F. C. B.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
|Also in print from Barnes and Noble
As an E-book at: